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Fifty years on, mainframer remembers 'a fantastic time to be an engineer'

James Niccolai | April 7, 2014
The IBM System/360 revolutionised business computing with the first set of compatible, scalable systems.

Some customers ordered systems without being sure they would even need them when delivery time came around. There were also speculators, Toole said, who ordered systems hoping to sell the contract for a markup later on.

"One of the good problems was we got a lot of orders. One of the bad problems was, we didn't know how many of them were real," he said. IBM sent teams out to check which orders were valid.

Toole remembers the 360 launch day at IBM. "We had an all-hands meeting and they made a special movie to show everyone." But his best memory is of the "second launch" a few months later at IBM's stockholder meeting at the Endicott, New York, country club.

It was a sunny July day, IBM's board was there and people milled around large tents eating and drinking. They were shown into an auditorium, a few hundred at a time, to watch a film about the 360's development and of customers talking about how they planned to use it.

Toole was assigned to accompany Gil Jones, then head of IBM World Trade, IBM's international arm. He answered Jones' questions about the 360 and took him on a tour of the plant.

"You felt like you were in the right place," he said.



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